Chennai: With LGBT month being celebrated all the over the world last month, Chennai once more opened itself up to Reel Desires: Chennai International Queer Film Festival.
This international film festival, which aims to make the mainstream audience aware of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) issues, also strives to create an acceptable and safe environment within families and communities, and highlighting the intersections among sexuality, gender and other identities and forms of marginalisation, such as disability, religion, class and caste.
“Movies play an important role in sensitising people as it can reach out to people from all sections of the society. However, quite often the LGBT community is portrayed negatively as in the case of the recent film, I ,” said Bessimon, a festival volunteer. Filmmakers should be more responsible and careful when dealing with such issues. This applies to the media as well, he said.
“This festival is an example of these people claiming the space for themselves. The LGBT pride month is also another example of that space,” said Shakti Natarajan, an activist of the LGBT community who is working for a doctorate. Over the last decade, TN has proved to be exemplary in fighting for the rights of this community. “Our state government had a transgender welfare board but it is not functioning so much right now,” she said.
This group of people, especially the transgenders, is subjected to a lot of violence as people tend to have a voyeuristic interest in their bodies. “They end up facing grotesque kind of violence. It is prevalent in Chennai and Tamil Nadu. Awareness should improve so that such incidents end,” she said.
The Supreme Court ruling on Article 377 was disappointing and came as a big blow to the entire community. Apart from spreading awareness about the community, there is also an appeal to the state government to repeal the law favourably, she said.
“Chennai has opened up a lot more to these issues but there is a need to address the negative representation in the media, especially in many of the films,” said Chennai-based transwoman Sujatha, who stars in the short film, Haemoglobal. The media and filmmakers have a vital role in making the larger society aware of the issues related to the LGBT community, she said.
“This film festival has also helped a few of the parents to come up and show their solidarity with their children and this is a huge achievement as gradually people are opening up to these issues,” said Bessimon.
Over 95 submissions were received this year and the final line-up features 23 films from eight countries. The feature film highlight is India premiere of Pride, a 2014 British LGBT-related historical film written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. It was screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Queer Palm award. The film is based on a true story of a group of young lesbian and gay activists who raised money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike in 1984. They called themselves “Lesbians and Gays Support Miners (LGSM)”.
‘I am Vidya’
The film fest which took place over a span of three days also saw the performance of a play “Colour of Transportation 2.0” by Smile Vidya, Angel Glady and Gee Imaan Semmalarr. Living Smile Vidya is an actress, poet, and artiste from Chennai. She has a master’s degree in linguistics. Smiley was awarded in recognition of their theatrical performances with Charles Wallace Award 2013.
She stood in more than 100 performances of 20 pieces of nine relevant directors on stage. She wrote ‘I am Vidya’, the first transgender autobiography, which was published in India. The book has been translated into six different Indian languages and is part of the canon in BA English of Stella Maris College, Chennai, India.